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State Attorney General Accuses 'Biodegradable' Water Bottle Makers of Greenwashing

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Plastic bottles have a bad reputation. Environmental groups complain they end up in landfills or the ocean where they take thousands of years to decompose. Even when they're recycled, their plastic can only be reused so many times.

Some plastic bottle manufacturers have responded by creating bottles that they claim will biodegrade quicker. But state attorney general Kamala Harris says that these claims are nothing but greenwashing, and she's filed a suit against firms that make these claims on their water bottles.

The suit claims that "biodegradable" bottles are the worst of all worlds: they're neither biodegradable nor recyclable. Consumers may buy these bottles thinking that they will biodegrade in the landfill or that they're recyclable. Recyclers say that the kind of materials used actually weakens the plastic, according to Harris.

The suit claims that these claims are deceptive and that these firms firms are breaking a law that targets greenwashing. In 2008, the state legislature banned the use of words like "biodegradable," "degradable," or "decomposable" on plastic containers.

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The company president for the bottle manufacturer ENSO defended his company's technology but he also told the Huffington Post that his company would work with the attorney general to make sure it wasn't breaking any laws.

"We stand behind our technology and the claims that our company makes in stating that standard plastics enhanced with our biodegradable additive are fully recyclable and if placed in an environment with microbes, will naturally biodegrade," Clark said in a statement. "We in no way claim that our technology is the silver bullet to solving the massive plastic pollution issue our world faces. It is however a huge step in the right direction."

The suit names two companies that sell water in ENSO's bottles: Aquamantra and Balance Water. You can find these waters in small shops, major grocery stores and even Whole Foods, according to the Huffington Post.